Senate considers plan to improve Fenway commute

The Commonwealth Investment Plan (CIP), an economic development proposal that includes an allocation of $55 million dollars to improve transportation to and from the Fenway, Longwood and Kenmore areas, was presented to the Massachusetts Senate yesterday, according to Ann Dufresne, communications director for Senate President Robert Travaglini.

Dufresne said debate on the issue would begin tomorrow.

For the many students living in the Fenway area, the plan will be a step toward remedying problematic transportation.

Sophomore theatre education major Jessica Hueras, who uses the Fenway T stop on the MBTA's Green D Line, said the wait for trains has caused her a lot of frustration.

"I end up late a lot," Hueras said. "I would end up having to wait for half an hour or 40 minutes. Now I walk to Kenmore to avoid the Fenway issue."

Dufresne said the Senate hopes the plan will alleviate these problems.

"Easier access to this area was the prime motivation for proposing these transit and street improvements," Dufresne wrote in an e-mail to The Beacon.

The "Longwood Medical Area/Fenway/Kenmore Square Improvement Plan," which is part of the CIP, calls for improved access to the Yawkey commuter rail station and Fenway, Ruggles, Longwood and Kenmore stations, as well as for increased lighting and improvements to area sidewalks.

According to an overview of the plan, the targeted areas have the third highest concentration of jobs in Boston.

The land between the three T stops attracts more than 84,000 employees, primarily hospital workers, and 60,000 students from the seven colleges in the Fenway area, every day.

According to Christy Letizia, the coordinator of Off-Campus Student Services, 158 Emerson students lived in the Fenway area and Kenmore Square last year.

Letizia said these neighborhoods are among the most popular for off-campus student apartments.

She said students choose the Fenway and Kenmore neighborhoods because they are relatively close to campus but lower in price than apartments in the Back Bay or Beacon Hill.

Although many students choose to live in the area, Letizia said her office receives many complaints year-round from students about delays caused by heavy traffic.

Even though most students do not drive, traffic "gets in the way" by crossing in front of the T above ground and slowing its progress, or causing buses to be caught in traffic, leaving students late for classes or commitments, Letizia said.

"Time is really valuable to these students," she said. "To know that they can get where they are going on time is really important."

Letizia said some students think it will be a short commute from the Fenway area to Emerson, since it is relatively nearby, but the traffic increases travel time.

Junior film major Tony Aiuvalasit, who lives less than two blocks from Fenway Park, said he has been frustrated by traffic near his apartment.

When there is a high volume of traffic, especially on Red Sox game days, Aiuvalasit said it is difficult for him to get to his apartment and back.

"They need to do something about the roads," he said. "It's horrible."

Senior marketing communications major Cailan O'Neill said if the plan is passed, improvements to the area sidewalks would not only make her commute easier, but also safer.

O'Neill uses the "cut-through path" between the Fenway T stop and Miner Street in order to get to her apartment. This path, O'Neill said, lacks sufficient lighting or emergency call buttons.

"It's dark [and] there are always homeless people and drunk people there," O'Neill said. "They've never really bothered me, but it always makes me nervous. Hopefully [the plan] will make it more comfortable and more safe, especially for the walk home late at night."